1. Given your success in the business and non-profit world, why the interest in education? More importantly, why go from personal passion to elected office?Public education is my family business – my parents, my aunts and uncles, and some of my siblings all have taught in public schools. I teach at UNT as an adjunct professor. When I was growing up, we talked about education issues at the dinner table every night. After two decades of working for and alongside nonprofits through my firm, Social Impact Architects, as well as my pro-bono efforts, I am convinced that we are at a crucial pivot point in Dallas. If we tackle our community issues and address them collectively, comprehensively and positively, we have the opportunity to change lives and show the true can-do spirit of Dallas.
For Dallas ISD to be successful, we need the right leaders at the right time. I believe I bring a unique combination of skill sets and education to the table, which can help chart this course. I am a known collaborator with cross-disciplinary experience and relationships in education, poverty, workforce, and healthcare. I also have a track record of results through countless community plans and strategies. Ultimately, though, I deeply believe in public schools and their transformative effect on lives, including my own.
2. How do you see your experiences up to this point helping you as a trustee?As I reflect on what has prepared me to become a trustee to serve Dallas and its students, three situations stand out. First, I am a product of public schools and attended the first early college high school – the Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science. Second, I have created a number of successful businesses as an entrepreneur and work now as a consultant to nonprofits on strategies to advance our community. For example, I have recently created early childhood and afterschool plans for Dallas. Third, outside of my business, I have served and led efforts on appointed public boards and commissions, including the Board of Adjustment, Landmark Commission, the Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty, and South Dallas/Fair Park Trust, hashing out solutions and ensuring that community interests are upheld. Because of these efforts, I was honored to receive the Dallas Chamber’s Young Athena Award in 2014 and the Social Enterprise Alliance’s Next Generation Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award. I believe I have a strong understanding of public education as well as a track record of getting things done in Dallas, which is what we need from the next generation of trustees at DISD.
3. Do you see any difficulties in working with the other board members? If so, how do you plan to overcome them?One of my she-roes is Eleanor Roosevelt and she was famous for saying: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” I hold myself accountable to this sentiment every day. First, I always start with an open mind on an issue and educate myself on various perspectives by researching best practices and talking to experts. Second, I engage in issue-based dialogue, not debate, with individuals directly involved in and/or impacted by the decision-making to understand what they have heard and what they understand about the issue. In business school, I was taught by my professor, Dr. John Lynch, that there is no such thing as “perfect information.” Therefore, I always connect with others to build a foundation of trust and understand the lens through which they see the issue. Third, I strive to understand my own biases and try to minimize decision-making based on personalities and assumptions. Once I feel equipped with facts and a two-way understanding of an issue, I engage in collegial debate with established ground rules that focus on building consensus around an important issue. If there is opposition to my viewpoint, I will listen and stay calm, frame the conversation around where we agree, and build a compromise on where we disagree. My experience is that most people agree on strategy, but often disagree on tactics. If the disagreement persists, I will make the tough decisions that I believe are in the best interests of the community. In my experience, by following these steps, you can disagree with a colleague, but still have a strong foundation of trust and respect.
4. Can you think of a teacher that made a difference in your life?I was lucky to be selected for Sarah Weddington’s (attorney in Roe v. Wade) leadership class while attending UT Austin. She worked in the Carter administration and was a state representative for a number of years. She taught me a lot about what public service really means. I later went on to be her Teaching Assistant and we still stay in touch. She made me feel special and was convinced that I “would go on to do big things.” Her faith in me meant the world to me, especially at a very young age.
5. Why do students struggle? When you were a student, did you? Why or why not?There is new research out that “struggle” actually is good for children – it teaches perseverance and grit. However, young people need mentors, teachers, and parents to help them with the life lessons coming from struggle. When I was a kid, I struggled with pronunciation of certain words. I still get tongue-tied at times as an adult.
6. How did you get past those difficult times during your academic career?My parents and my sisters were always available, listened to my problems, and had good ideas from their experience on how to overcome any difficulties. Then, they always followed up these “tough talks” with comfort food. My favorite was my mom’s chocolate chip cookies.
7. What is DISD doing well now and where can we improve?The top three successes for DISD include the success of bond election, statistically significant improvements in the climate survey, and the passage of recess and pre-K last month.
The top three challenges for DISD include the community’s perception of DISD, the mixed viewpoint on the implementation of TEI, and principal continuity.
8. If you were the Superintendent today, what, if anything, would you do differently and why?I would change the definition of success in DISD from high school graduate to every graduate being 1) enrolled and have the financial aid to attend a 2- or 4-year college; 2) enlisted; or 3) employed in living wage job AND create a system that would support this outcome for every student in DISD.
9. What do you see as the role and responsibility of a trustee?
As trustees, we are entrusted by the public to put students first and to put plans, policies and metrics in place to support educational excellence. As a Board, trustees create a vision, mission and goals that align with community needs and values. Then, they hire the superintendent to implement and co-create metrics to measure performance. To support the goals, they set policy and provide strong financial stewardship. As an individual, I have asked District 2 what they want from their trustee. To address their needs, I will serve in three roles. First, as a CHAMPION, I will support what is working in the district and better explain the “why” behind many of the changes. Second, because many are concerned that the board itself is polarized, I will serve as a CONSENSUS-BUILDER. Third, as a CONNECTOR, I will actively remove barriers to help advance academic and safety needs. I will also build relationships with other government entities that have a stake in the success of our children.
10. What role do you think charter schools play in Dallas education? What role should they play?
I believe that Dallas citizens should have choice when deciding what school to attend – public, private or charter school. However, I am concerned that Dallas ISD is not putting itself in the best position possible to compete with private and charter schools. Therefore, I believe DISD needs to continue to improve its schools to offer programs of choice as well as to better promote public school options to parents.
11. Identify an issue your constituents are passionate about. What would your ideal solution be to that issue?
In District 2, we have a number of issues surrounding facility and technology maintenance and improvement. Once elected, I would ensure the seamless and responsible implementation of the 2015 Bond program and bridge plan, revisit the short-term and long-term nature of overcrowding within the Woodrow feeder pattern, and develop a more satisfactory way of resolving maintenance, safety and purchasing issues. I would also look into developing a master plan for each campus, similar to Austin ISD, and a technology plan, similar to Richardson ISD.
12. Why should voters on Election Day choose you?
1)Strong support of and background in public education – as a student, teacher and daughter/niece of teachers/administrators
2)Decade-long exposure to the Dallas political process through boards, commissions and task forces
3)Strong track record in community as a consensus-builder who gets things done
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